Google previews pages in the right sidebar

Google has been playing around with showing actual previews of pages for some time now, but we spotted a new format last week which was more obvious (and therefore presumably more likely to be used). It might make you want to have a think about your website design, especially the product pages. First of all, here’s what you see in a normal Google search; notice the grey panel with an arrow in (which appears as your mouse hovers over the result area):

A normal Google search - notice the grey panel with an arrow

Note too that these appear when you hover over the AdWords ads, with a yellow panel this time:

Google AdWords ad - notice the grey panel with an arrow

What happens when you hover the mouse pointer over the grey panel? This (and it’s fast):

What happens when you hover the mouse pointer over the grey panel?

So the searcher can now see, at a glance, what your page looks like, and it’s easy to just run down the arrow panels and see which page appears, graphically, to contain the content you want. Now, in the example above, I’d say that the top advertiser has got it right. The preview of the page clearly shows an image of a relevant product, and anyone looking for one of those products would be likely to click on that result, confident that they’re about to be taken to a product page. The previews show for PDFs too, so your data sheets should all be showing up, like this:

The previews show for PDFs too

The final thing you’ll notice is that the images are overlaid with captions highlighting the relevant snippet of text.

Now, Google tests things out all of the time, and we can’t be sure that this one is here to stay, but I’d bet it will be. Tomorrow I’ll talk about what the implications are. In the meantime, if this new feature is running as you read this, you might like to see what your own pages look like.

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